Friday, August 30, 2013

Content Marketing: What content type is best?


As a marketing consultant (and one that is largely focused on content marketing) one question that I frequently hear is, “what is the best content type to use?”  Oftentimes if this is coming up a full content audit is suggested. However I did want to take a few minutes to address the benefits of different content types in this blog post to help quickly and easily answer this question.


To set the stage here, the real answer lies in another question – what is the goal of the content? That will dictate what the best type of content is. To help work through these questions I wanted to first provide a list of common content types and list benefits of the content types:

Type
Benefit(s)

Other Elements to Consider

3rd Party Content

Extend Reach with Well Trusted content pieces:

A CMO Council report: 9% of respondents considered vendor content trustworthy vs. 67% who trust research from professional associations, 50% from industry organizations, 48% from customer case studies (48 percent), 44% from analyst reports (44 percent) and 40% from independent product reviews.
Make sure you align with a reputation brand
Banners
Extend reach, be visible - a users needs to see your message 8+ times before it resonates, this will help with that cause.

1)      There are many types of banners from standard to flash to fully custom units - each can achieve different goals of visibility to engagement
2)      In a TechTarget media consumption survey 79% of members say contextually aligned adds influence their purchases.
Blog Posts

Build brand value - enables 2 way conversations via comments
Requires heavy dedication to keeping updated regularly
Case Studies

Show successful implementations - good mid/late stage asset types
Good for industry call outs and targeting
(Demand Gen reports 45% of IT Buyers look for industry specific content)
1)      Industry specific will capture better response rates
2)      Response rates on this type of content vary significantly by country/region
Demos

Late stage content type with ability to showcase deep features - engagement and view times are metrics to watch

eBooks

Set the stage for how to attack a problem - good for thought leadership. Also helps to maximize creditability and market alignment, pulling in serious buyers

Editorial Alignment

Extend reach, Similar to 3rd party content
Helps build content volume turn-key and is a trusted content type

Infographics


Live Event

Maximize time and exposure onsite with an audience most pertinent to your solutions.  Capture late stage users and have meaningful engagement face to face.

Microsite

Build mindshare and thought leadership through comprehensive learning environments
Goals can vary depending on build and layout: educate users, engage users, offer a unique experience
Newsletters

Provides engagement opportunities that can be HIGHLY segmented and personalized

Podcast

Very portable & can be leveraged to extend the reach of your video & webcast content

Video

Drives strong engagement - highly trackable metrics - view time, % completion rates

Virtual Event

Combine interactivity & intimacy of a live event with the ability to capture online user in a deep learning environment.

Webcast

Webcasts are an increasingly important component of a content strategy.  Engaging assets if live, live Q&As, also - great assets to easily break into session, and other types - transcripts and podcasts
1)      Market for Webinars, Online Seminars and Webcasts will grow from $200m to $400m in 2014*
2)      59% B2B Marketer’s using webcasts today & they are the 3rd most effective tool for content marketing (Content Marketing Institute)
White Papers

White papers remain the most effective media type for IT research and technology purchases (Source - 2012 TechTarget Media Consumption Study)
Can be strong assets to capture and engage prospects at any stage of the buy cycle


What do you do with this grid? 
When looking to produce new content, first ask what your goal of that content is, then find the asset type that best corresponds to the goal in the grid. That’s a good start, however you will want to do a full content audit, and make sure it aligns to your content strategy. If you don’t yet have a strategy this post from Ian Lurie is brilliant and will give you the steps necessary to get started. 

What do you think? Leave a comment and let me know if there are other benefits or types you would like to see here!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Content Marketing Lessons From My Dentist

I was at the dentist today, and I actually enjoyed the experience. Going into the appointment, like most people, I was dreading it. It was just a cleaning, but I still hate going to the dentist. Then without even fully grasping it in the moment, the foundations of content marketing took over and it became a good experience.

Content marketing is about building relationships.  The hygienist and I talked about everything from college, free diving, healthcare, to traveling.  These conversations, although not related to her solutions (teeth whitening, cavities, etc.) were good, and help me develop a relationship. As I walked out, I realized I enjoyed what in many cases is a negative experience.

A relationship was built, as a result I am a lifelong customer. Word of mouth, and word of keyboard (social sharing) will undoubtedly kick in. Brand advocacy has been established.


Whats the take-away? Content marketing doesn't always need to tie back to your solution. Focus on the relationship first (Jon Miller has a good post similar to this here). This relationship building also applies in your social strategy, as @LaurenEHarper calls out here! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

3 Myths of Inbound and Content Marketing

Perhaps one of the most critical elements of being successful in business is expectations setting. The wrong expectations can change the perception of a success into anything but.  In this post I want to help communicate some of the common myths associated with content and inbound marketing tactics. With this post, hopefully proper expectations around these strategies can be established, and thus proper success metrics associated to your efforts.

Myth #1: If you build it they will come:
There are many factors to driving traffic and engagement from your content marketing strategy. Simply creating content isn’t enough, even the best content needs to get its start somewhere.  To drive high levels of engagement and volume, use all the promotional tools at your disposal. Promote new content on your social networks LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, but also consider your in-house eMail lists.
Before you can do this though, you need to build your network of followers. This also takes time, as well as a solid content marketing strategy. If you don’t have something good to say, you won’t have any followers.

The reality - look at one of the most viral videos – it takes a catalyst to project content to viral fame. Most content will need a push to reach maximum exposure levels.

Still not getting the volume you wanted? Consider other more traditional outbound strategies. Inbound is great – it can drive a lot of “free” traffic and impressive conversion rates. However that said – it is inherently limited in its reach. To maximize your reach sometimes you need to extend your potential audience size. This is something outbound can do very well.

Ahh, before any inbound fanatics get upset that I mentioned outbound, consider this - if inbound is capable of driving all the traffic you need, why would big companies specializing in inbound marketing still play in the outbound space? Shouldn’t the masters of inbound have more volume than they can handle?

If you need more volume and engagement, consider using traditional outbound tools to turn things up – An integrated marketing strategy mixing inbound and outbound tactics might be just the jump-start you need. 


Myth #2: Quantity over Quality:
Let’s be crystal clear quality is important! However, the most important aspect of your content will be relevance. Just because a piece is well written or produced doesn’t mean it will be relevant. If you use a persona driven strategy, relevance will drive volume.  If moving the needle is your goal, it is better to have a limited number of highly targeted/relevant and highly engaging assets than it is to have lots of assets with limited engagement rates.

The Reality – It has been proven that persona strategies will drive results. This report shows that 45% of buyers favor industry specific content (IE targeting). Going to the next level with that concept, as shown here, a persona approach can yield a 200% increase in click rates. So while quality is important Relevance via segmentation is above all.


Myth #3: It’s free:
Perhaps one of the biggest myths of inbound is that it’s “free”. After all, it just posting content and letting the leads come in, right?

The Reality - This is absolutely not the case. Inbound and Content Marketing requires time. Time = Money. Time to manage and create content, time to run regular content analysis’s, creating content calendars, reviewing metrics and content strategy. That’s just the front end, then on the back end, what do you do with this these prospects? Nurturing is an equally important factor to inbound and content marketing, and this requires even more time. So unless you consider time and content creation free, there is nothing free about inbound/content marketing.

When making the push to change your organization to focus more on content and inbound marketing, let’s make sure the above myths are busted before poor expectations are set.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2 Shocking Stats

1) “25% of your email database decays annually. #INBOUND13” -  @BrillAEB (via twitter)

2) “For every $92 spent acquiring customers, only $1 is spent converting them

This had me thinking – as marketers we obviously need to make sure we keep filling the funnel, that much will never change.  However to maximize our investments we need to equally focus on the next steps after getting people into our email database.  It’s clear from the second bullet that many are not spending as much time or effort on taking their demand generation efforts and turning them into MQLs/SQLs (Marketing and Sales Qualified Leads). Marketing is amidst a huge transformation and to survive it we must adapt our tactics. New rules of marketing are not about doing more with less, but rather getting more out of what you are doing.

So my take away – are you putting equal amounts of energy into the enablement side as you are demand generation? There are some simple and quick hitting steps you can take to drive big impacts. If you are a technology marketer and want to learn more, message me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The long fall of Content: How Content fell from King to Peasant.

As marketers we have all heard that “Content is King”, however with the significant increase in content marketing tactics recently, content in many cases has fallen to be the peasant.



King is not for everyone, only the select few are lucky enough to be king. Peasants are everywhere. In today’s always connected world content is everywhere – in this way content has become the peasant.
Take a look at this site to get a good visual demonstration of just how much content is out there:
So what has replaced content as king?

Relevance.

Relevance is the key to breaking through all the noise. As noted by Seth Godin – “spam is always in the eye of the recipient”. Relevant content will ensure that you rise to the top and are once again King with your content strategy.

What are the keys to producing better more relevant content? Check out this blog post I have on How to perform a content audit. This should give you the tools needed to ensure your content can rise to be king once again. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Content Auditing – Why You Need a Content Audit and How to Do One


As a consultant, one of the tasks that I frequently help marketers with is content mapping.  A strong content audit and map is the backbone to your content marketing strategy. A good content audit should be able to help a marketer understand 3 things:

1 – What stages of the buy cycle the current content is covering, and where there are gaps
2 – If current content is addressing buyer personas, if so, the breakouts on those personas
3 – Identify strong content vs. weak content

These elements combined should be utilized to give clear action items to:
  •  Identifying the most relevant content
  •  Better targeting buyers with content at each stage (Relevance is the new king)
  •  Identifying gaps in content strategy as it aligns back to buy cycles

With this information you will be able to maximize the impact of the current content, and identify what your future content production should look like. Beyond that this mapping will help with the set up nurture flows and increase the efficiency of your marketing programs.

What are the keys to a successful content mapping exercise?

Front End Evaluation:

Buy Cycle Stages – before doing your map we need to understand that buyers will have different pain points and research focuses as they move through the buy cycle. Personally I look at it as 3 stages:
                Awareness – Figuring out there is a problem
                Consideration – reviewing different types of solutions for the problem
                Decision – gathering product specific information

Market Maturity – this is an important step that will help you understand how to address your prospects. Is the market you are selling into a mature market where the awareness and IT problem stage are already well known? Or is it an emerging technology? This will guide how much weight you should have in each of the buy cycle stages.

For example – these are very generic terms but for the sake of demonstration look at the difference here:


What you can see here is that the Mainframe market is mature. The problems associated with mainframe management are well known – these buyers have been in the market a long time. With this in mind a heavier emphasis on mid and late stage content is ideal. However with Cloud, you can see in late 2009-2011 it was being heavily researched (early stage). Now people know what type of cloud environment they are interested in and have a better understanding of the cloud advantages. As cloud is maturing, content needs to get more specific into the types of cloud which solve a buyer’s problems.

Personas – There is a great post about content mapping and the intersection of buyer personas over on the Fearless Competitor blog – however to sum it up – technology marketers need to know that IT buying teams are made up of multiple people (50% of IT buying teams are 5+ people – TechTarget Media Consumption Report). Those people will each have a different outlook on the problems and what benefits they value. For example a HR Software solution might have at a minimum a Technology person and a HR staff member researching. The Tech person will be concerned about integration with other apps and infrastructure, while the HR staff member will be focused on software features. We need to make sure we have content for each persona involved, and address their unique pain points in each stage.

Media types – This involves reviewing the media types you have available. Does your current content portfolio have White Papers, Case Studies, Infographics, Webcasts, etc. There are many types of content and it’s important in your map to understand what types of content work best. Layer media type consideration with the personas and the market maturity. As noted here, maximize the content you have by re-purposing it. Take a webcast, turn it into a series, podcast, transcript, blog posts, etc.

Going deeper: What are the sources of the types of content you have – do you align with 3rd parties? Do you use editorial content to go to market? Are you utilizing Native advertising? Media consumption studies prove that buyers trust 3rd parties more than vendors, which is why alignment with 3rd parties is critical to extend reach and gaining trust. This SAP B2B research report shows vendor content only gains trust by 9% of buyers, while that trust increases by 4X when content comes from analyst reports.

Back End Evaluation:
The above list covers much of the up-front considerations you need to evaluate during a content mapping exercise. However that is just half of the story, for a sophisticated content audit you should look deeper and consider the performance of the current content in market:

Primary Lead volume – This is about reviewing the content based on how many leads it can generate. From a lead volume number, what is top performing? What is unique about that asset, can that approach be updated and replicated to make more top performing content?

Conversion Metrics – Aside from pure lead volume, another import viewpoint on top performing content is based on conversion rates. What gets the most views, what has the most views to completed reg pages, which asset has the biggest drop off? CTR and Acquisition rate metrics are important to get insight on what titles and content types perform best. Again, identify those top performing, and replicate that.

Call to action – Do you include a call to action in your content – do you have additional links for users to click on and view more content? What asset is generating the most engagement via these types of calls to action?

Secondary touch point performance – use the above conversion and lead volume metrics – what content performs best when it comes to getting the second engagement? What is the best asset for driving users downstream?  Consider using these in your nurturing flows.

Engagement – this could be measured by dwell times, view to completion, etc. Take into consideration that the asset that generates the most lead volume might not be the same asset that captures the attention of your prospects for the longest time. Highly engaging assets will be better for nurturing streams.

Filling Gaps:
Use Google trends and do keyword searches. In the above search there are recommendations on what other keyword searches are similar. Make sure you use this information to help guide you on trending keywords/topics to use in your content to maximize reach. Additional options for getting deeper insights into what is driving buyer’s research are to work with publishers in the space. Many publishers have purchase intentions studies research showing what pain points drive buyers as well as other messaging tips/considerations.

Duh, but I have to mention it:
Optimize for Mobile…
Much of the traffic and email will be viewed from a mobile device, make sure during a proper content audit that all (or at least top performing) content is optimized for mobile viewing.

Placing your content:
An important consideration is where will your content live? Your website should be obvious, but then beyond that will you syndicated with other targeted networks? Will you use it to start conversations on social networks?  Will PPC be involved? “If you build it they will come”, doesn’t necessarily apply to content marketing. Sometimes even good content is going to have to be shared, promoted, and marketed to gain traction. 


What to do with your content audit:
What all this boils down to is being able to better understand the buyer’s journey so you can help them navigate through it better and faster.



This exercise serves several purposes. In today’s marketing world there is a significant evolution occurring, and only the marketers that are adapting will survive.  

Content Marketing is about helping marketers understand where their content stagey has holes, helping them communicated more effectively with prospects, and understand which content will be best for nurturing. As noted in the B2B content marketing report from SAP too many organizations lack a clear plan and are practicing random acts of content development. This mapping will give you the tools you need to make a good plan.

As an end result you should have something that looks like this:


Leave a comment! When was the last time you did a full content audit? Did you take all of the above into consideration? Did you use other metrics to further enhance your content audit? 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why marketing isn't about instant gratification

In this day of everything on-demand and instant gratification, marketers need to know building a lead funnel and driving user engagement takes time.  Trying to rush this or taking short cuts will reduce the ability to influence prospects and cut short your conversion rates.  

Don't act like Veruca Salt through your content plan by screaming “I want it now” (“it” being the sale). If you do this your prospects will see you as the “bad egg” and drop you down the trash shoot.

Why you can’t rush the process:
I have seen many marketers that are hyper-focused on getting sales ready leads and thus only producing late stage content.  This strategy is actually making more work for sales and will reduce the impact of your efforts. Here’s why:

-Solution selling doesn't work anymore – We need to focus on benefits to the buyer, not solutions. Solution selling leaves us fighting the competition with price, not value.

-You are jumping in late, the competitors and thought leaders have already had the ability to set the tone and frame of the conversation. Being late to game makes sales job harder as they now have to unset the thought leaders and undo the benefit framework your prospects already established.


-Being product pitchy is very visible to buyers as noted in this blog “why marketing is like being attacked by dogs…” content that is product pitchy will come off as ““me-focused”, your prospect senses weakness. And because he doesn't like that you’re trying to control him, you lose.” 

How do you speed up the process?
As marketers we have goals, often times one of those will be how many SQLs or MQLs (sales or marketing qualified leads) you can pass on. So how do you maximize this, yet not fall into the above trap? Develop a content marketing strategy that has all stages of the buy cycle covered.  You must build trust and rapport with prospects all along the way.  Here are 3 steps to consider for increasing conversion rates:

1 – Sell on Value:
As noted above, content marketing needs to be based on benefits not solutions. Selling on benefits and value will yield significantly larger deals and faster close times (see slide below). Selling on products/solutions is a commodity sell and will devalue your solution and offerings.

2 - Run a content audit to find gaps, and then fill the gaps:
(More on this in a future blog post coming soon!)
Hint - Look at front end of content (what buy stages it hits/content types used) look at back end (conversion rates). Using content with built in calls-to-action that pull users deeper into the cycle is critical. 


3 - Nurture and Score your leads:

Data points in above slide from HubSpot

As noted in the above slide, nurturing and scoring of respondents yields huge impacts

4 - Follow up in a timely manor:
Content is used to push users to the point where they include you on their short list. You need to make sure you are not calling too early, but also not calling too late. Work with sales to create SLA's and processes to identify the best times to call.

Still need to increase late stage leads?

The above tactics should help you build out a long term strategy that will keep your funnel full. However if you are still looking to get some quick hits in the late stages there are options. Consider products that can mix demand generation, behavioral activity analysis and qualification metrics to get quick hits into the funnel. Utilizing the best practices of content marketing overlaid with the behavioral activity, and qualifications will get you the quick hit SQLs (sales qualified leads) you need.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Always On - The Key to Becoming a Landmark

I was recently at a Boston Red Sox game and while walking there I looked up and caught this sunset image (well maybe not a real sunset, but you get the idea):


For those of you that are not familiar with Boston, you might wonder why I would take a sunset picture with a big gas station sign right in the middle of it. Well this sign believe it or not is a fixture in the Boston landscape “Photographs of the sign appear on postcards, in newspapers, movies, books, tourism brochures and even in Life magazine.” It has been part of the skyline here since 1940. Think about that – that’s effectively a single branding campaign that has been in place since 1940-Present and beyond.

The sign has become much more than an advertisement, or a billboard of types. It is so valued in the community, that when Citgo thought about bringing it down for renovations, people protest, and asked for it to be added to the list of Boston Landmarks by the Boston Landmark Commission. 

So what does this have to do with B2B Technology Marketing? Simple, this shows the value of an always-on message.  One of the many challenges marketers have to work around is not thinking in terms ofcampaignsor bucketing by media types. We need to offer a seamless experience across all elements and ALWAYS BE ON. If we do this with our content marketing strategy, maybe we will be lucky enough to become a true landmark to our users.